Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference starts this week, which means it is time for everyone under the sun to make predictions about what will be announced in the conference's keynote tomorrow.
First off the completely given, new Macbook Airs. Seems a given that Apple's laptop line will get an update that pushes it more inline with the trend-setting Macbook Air. In other words, we'll see the start of a consolidation where most of Apple's laptop options will be thinner, sleeker Air-like with one or perhaps two "Pro" options for the high-end users. The open question seems to be if the laptops will be getting the rumored "Retina Display" during this refresh or not.
OS X Update
Back in February Apple previewed the next release of OS X, v10.8 (Mountain Lion). I've already noted elsewhere I hope Mountain Lion is a nod to a previous OS X release, Snow Leopard, in that much as the Leopard release introduced a host of new concepts that later got refined in Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion will see lots of optimization of the initial iOS-izing of OS X introduced in Lion.
Regardless, Apple promised a late summer release, so WWDC will be where we learn that it's on track, will be out the door soon and look at the cool things it does.
Keeping to the developer conference theme and moving from one platform to the next we'll get our first public viewing of what Apple is cooking up for iOS 6. Rumors have Facebook integration being added into the OS, similar to Apple's Twitter integration along with a move away from default apps using Google-based services such as Maps.
I don't doubt Apple is working on supporting Facebook given it's hugely popular. However, I don't see them getting too wild with it. After all, the last thing Apple wants to do is give Facebook the same kind of treatment it gave Google only to see them turn around and release their own competitive mobile platform. Which of course is why Apple is rumored to be moving away from using Google's services in default apps.
Here's a crazy and wild thought, instead of suggesting Apple purchase Twitter, I'm going to suggest Apple purchase Yahoo. Yeah sure, lots of Yahoo services suck and don't really meet Apple's high standards or business needs. But look at what you would get, a whole web and data-based services infrastructure and user base for ads, photo sharing, mapping and text/voice based searching. All things iOS users need or are dependent on.
Speaking of voice-based search, when is a beta release of a new software service not a beta release? When you release it to over 4 million new users and run prime-time commercials featuring A-list celebrities. Yeah, I'm talking about Siri. I know some think Siri is over-promising and under-delivering. I suppose that's true to some extent. But it is only a "beta" release, whatever that means these days.
The real question is, what improvements will Apple in introducing? Is Siri limited to just the iPhone or will it be making a jump to the iPad in iOS 6? Personally, I think Siri makes sense as an iPhone only service. It not only helps differentiate the two, but also keeps Siri where it would be most helpful, in an "on the go" environment where one isn't necessarily fully engaged in the digital moment.
But don't expect any new iOS hardware. The iOS preview will be setting the stage for new iOS devices in the fall.
Not so Given
Other hardware consolidation, but on the desktop? For a long time now, the trend in personal computing has been moving anyway from the desktop. Most people buy laptops these days (or much to Apple's preference, iPads and iPhones). So why does Apple need three distinct desktop models?
If most consumers are purchasing laptops, why have an all-in-one desktop system such as the iMac? Yes, the all-in-one has defined the Mac since 1984. But history is one thing Apple tries hard to keep from blinding them to the changing marketplace (floppy and optical drives anyone)?
Sure, some people need a machine for heavy-lifting, but Apple hasn't updated the desktop Pro line in 2 years.
So which is it the Pro or the iMac as the odd man out?
I personally think the iMac will fade away and, per the rumors, the Pro will be getting a much needed update after a hiatus to see if demand still existed for the device. If fact, Apple did the same thing recently with the Mac mini.
Wait and See
A proper Apple TV. Certainly Apple has been working on something. One only has to look in the Isaacson bio of Steve Jobs where in Jobs says of a TV device, "it will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
For me, the problem really isn't technology. The problem is the business. Who is going to partner with Apple on this? Comcast? They have too much to lose from a service perspective, so why be forthcoming with their content (NBC/Universal)?
In the past one could count on Disney partnering with Apple because Jobs was the largest single shareholder of Disney (thanks to Disney's purchase of Pixar). But now?
So can Apple just bypass Comcast and the like? I don't know.
One thing I will predict about an TV offering from Apple is if there is an announcement, it will be a preview of some future availability. Unlike their current devices where pre-announcing an update can hurt sales of existing models, Apple has very little to lose with a preview of new TV device, other than perhaps some small percentage of sales of the current "hobby" Apple TV. In fact, since Apple has no current TV model, pre-announcing actually gives them an advantage, it keeps the marketplace frozen as everyone waits to see the new product up close and in person.